The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Except when they’re not. Siding with one of two forces hostile to American interests will not strengthen our foreign policy. It all begins with the foundations of a conflict that has gone on for years, leaving almost 100,000 dead.
The main conflict began when rebels trying to protest Assad’s oppressive regime were gunned down by security forces in Deraa, a southern city in the region. Over time, however, the rebels have turned into a coalition force primarily led by radical Islamists, including al Qaeda. This means, essentially, that both sides of the conflict are hostile toward the United States.
“There is only one outcome that the United States can possibly favor: an indefinite draw,” says Edward N. Luttwak, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in the New York Times.
The dilemma President Barack Obama faces today is a result of the “red line” he declared in August 2012 when he threatened “enormous consequences” if chemical weapons were used by either side. With evidence now surfacing that Assad used sarin gas, a deadly chemical weapon, on civilians, Obama has been put into a bind.
In order to prove that his threats are not empty, the president wants to act against Assad. Unfortunately, the “shot across the bow” (as Obama is advocating) will have little to no effect. He’s forgotten rule number one of war – if you’re going to strike a military target, don’t tell the enemy where and when.
The only way to truly follow through on his threat would be to engage in a stronger attack. But the country is weary of long “nation-building” campaigns that are difficult to connect with American interests, and this type of engagement could only exacerbate the chaos. Therefore, this option should be rejected as well.
The British Parliament seems to agree. Last week, they voted down a motion to initiate military action in Syria.
In this case, the evidence is not clear enough to warrant a large-scale military attack. Obama has failed to convince the United Nations Security Council and was notably silent when the rebels allegedly used sarin gas last May. If we want to stand up against chemical weapons, we would need to support both sides. The best way to do that in this case is to avoid getting involved.